Two weeks ago, my sister’s community, which is close to my own, was rocked by the suicide of a 10 year old boy, and I found myself having a talk with my own 10 year old about suicide and what it means, and why it happens. It was difficult to process and I found myself needing to talk about it, so I went live on the Facebook page that day. If you missed it, you can watch it HERE. I felt compelled to learn more about how we, as parents, can help children not only cope with suicide, but how we can help children who are struggling with suicidal feelings. I reached out to family therapist Joy Acaso and we did a live podcast together. You can watch the episode HERE.
Below, mental health counselor Jae Shirin has written up a list of warning signs to look for in children, if you suspect they may be struggling with suicidal feelings.
Saving our Children
Suicide, at any age can be a word with heavy weight but when we start losing our children this word needs more than a conversation. Often, we can be unaware of what is taking place inside the minds and hearts of our children and dismiss the warning signs that something could need immediate attention. Warning signs are often red flags that indicate something more could be lying underneath those short hellos and distant words. Mood changes, long clothing worn out of season, and fanaticizing about the story that they will play out are warning signs to watch for that could save your child’s life.
Drastic changes in mood or behavior
Often once the hormones hit so do these other pod people that just show up at our door one day full of pimples and hormones that make our kids unrecognizable, so we tend to dismiss their withdrawn attitudes and sudden mood changes and file it in the hormonal teenager bin. Although this is most times the case, asking open questions with open ended answers could reveal if there is something more that needs to be expressed. If you had a vibrant outgoing kid and all the sudden have a moody recluse, this could be a warning something more than their hormones is bothering them.
Clothing tells a story
We have all done it. Worn long sleeves when it’s 90 degrees because of our sunburned skin, or taken a chance and worn short sleeves in the winter, but this costume change is different. Self-injurious behavior if often the first sign that something more than they can handle is bothering them. Long sleeve shirts, scarves when it’s not cold weather or pants to the beach when they normally wear shorts can be red flags that your teen is engaging in self-injurious behavior. This behavior includes but is not limited to cutting, burning of the skin, and other mutilation in which they feel a release through harming themselves.
Telling the story
Usually the final sign of suicide is telling the story of how they will kill themselves to a trusted friend or relative. By the time the story is told thy have rehearsed it over and over in their minds. We are often taught that those wanting to commit suicide do so in silence but telling a story about how they will commit suicide is more often the final step. When you hear this story ask questions, create a safety plan and get them help immediately. Do not brush this off as a joke because if you do they could carry their plan out with no one knowing until it is too late.
You are asking, not planting
We think if we ask about suicide we are planting the idea in the persons head and are somehow responsible if something happens. Asking actually forces them to express what has been going on inside of them. Problems they probably have been battling with a long time may come out in the open. Asking shows concern and lets them know they don’t have to hide how they feel. If you suspect someone you know may be struggling with this ask questions and get them to the right resources to help save their life.
Jae Shirin is a creative who uses storytelling to teach building authentic healthy connections. Author, speaker, and future podcaster she believes in the power of interconnection and words to bring the adventures of your imagination to life. She just released her first children’s book in 2017 entitled ‘ Way up in the Air’. As an Adlerian Mental health counselor, she has earned her Masters of Arts and chooses to specialize in the science of relationships. She currently sits on the board of a nonprofit dedicated to helping immigrants navigate their new life entitled Embracing Diversity Inc and is dedicated to helping build life skills through literacy, communication, and connection.
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